Mad beef?

SPAIN and Italy banned the import of British beef on March 2 1. Germany and France are also contemplating a total ban. Panic spread throughout Europe in March-end over the consumption of beef from cows infected with the Mad Cow disease. The European Union (EU) is greatly exercised and Jerry Kaily, the EU commissioner for agriculture, has called for an independent scientific committee to look into the issue. The EU'S commission on agriculture is holding an emergency meeting in Brussels.

The Mad Cow disease seems to come from a virus which bores a hole in the brain membranes of the cattle, thereby killing them. Some years ago, it had been noticed that a similar virus was affecting humans as well. But though there were suspicions !that the humans could have contracted the virus after eating diseased beef, there was no scientific evidence to back it up. Now, a new study in Germany has found some corelations, intensifying the panic.

British farmers stand in grave danger of losing a us $6,000 million market. In Britain, supermarkets will sell the meat till the government officially bans it. But reports said that at least one-third of the schools have stopped selling beef over their canteen counters. British farming associations are obviously trying to reassure the people all over Europe. But there are few takers. The BBC reported that though some of the European governments are unsure of an immediate ban, they are having to bow down to immense public pressure. Meanwhile, right wingers in Europe have stepped up their campaign against unification.

Scientists believe that the disease might have spread through the food chain. It seems now that 11 million cattle may have to be slaughtered and incinerated. That raises the question of compensation. In 1967, at least 400,000 cattle had to be incinerated after they were found infected with the foot-and- mouth disease. The farmers had been compensated. But to compensate for 11 million cattle in today's prices would be a mammoth task; no one has even calculated the cost.

Meanwhile, an Organisation called the Compassion in World Farming has blamed the modern intensive animal rearing system for being at the root of the crisis, and said there could be much more serious crises in the future.

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